Resident Advisors are the first line of support for students living in field accommodation – RAs are expected law as a peer counselor for their residents, while also serving as the residents’ first point of contact in many emergency situations. The severity of the problems they face, coupled with the nature of living in the same place where they work, means that some RAs feel overwhelmed and have requested additional institutional measures to support them.
There are 240 resident employees members that make up housing and residence life, with a resident counselor on each floor in the resident dorms and senior counselors overseeing each dorm building. Over 7,000 students live in accommodation on the grounds.
Mina DiPaula, resident counselor and sophomore at the College, said she was inspired to become an AR because she wanted to help other students. During their freshman year, DiPaula’s AR helped them adjust to college and meet new people despite most activities being virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Really, it was just that he was ready to talk when I needed to,” DiPaula said. “If I was having a hard time, I could just text him and say, ‘Hi, can we have lunch? then he would have lunch with me.
Inspired by their own AR, DiPaula said being there for residents is their favorite part of the job – although they say that responsibility is difficult because it’s a constant expectation.
“It’s honestly harder to do than I thought it would be,” DiPaula said. “Because I’m definitely the kind of person who likes to talk to people, always be there for people, but it’s also kind of hard to be available 24/7 and all the time.”
RAs are the first point of contact in many dorm emergency situations. In the event of a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning, it is the responsibility of the RA to call the police. If a resident is facing a mental health crisis, they often turn to their RA first.
In addition to their usual duties, the ARs were responsible to enforce COVID-19 guidelines — such as gathering restrictions — in dorms during the pandemic. Many RAs said they felt uncomfortable enforcing these guidelines, further noting that they struggled to connect with residents due to social distancing requirements and online instructions.
Andrew Chin, vice president of training and development for housing and residence life and a fourth-year student at the College, said he also decided to be RA because he wanted to support freshmen. year as they transition to college. Chin was an RA last year, but now oversees other RAs and works with HRL administration to create programs and make changes within the program.
Chin said HRL had experienced staff shortages this year, which meant there were fewer administrative members to support the RAs. Still, he noted that staff members actually need more support to help balance student and AR responsibilities. During his tenure as vice president, Chin tried to initiate programming workshops to be someone other staff members could come to for help.
“I really tried to emphasize that staff members really need to support each other because again we probably need more of that support than what is given to us,” said Chin.
Currently, the HRL Accountability Council meets with staff members to assess performance and implement necessary improvement plans. According to DiPaula, senior resident advisors hold walk-in office hours to support RAs, but — like RAs — SRs can only provide a minimal level of support while balancing their own responsibilities as students. . While RAs act as mentors for students in a specific part of a residence area, SRs oversee an entire building or residence area.
DiPaula also said the support offered by HRL focuses on self-care rhetoric, rather than providing concrete mental health resources to RAs.
“Preaching self-care isn’t enough when you put a 19-year-old in charge of being responsible for the lives of others,” DiPaula said.
Chin says resident advisers need the administration of HRL to show more appreciation and understanding of their concerns, as well as to recognize how exhausting the responsibilities of the job can be.
“I think a lot of the appreciation [for staffers] fell on student leadership, to show that we love what RAs do,” Chin said.
Chin has also worked on other initiatives to improve the program over the past year. One of his personal priorities is to improve the remuneration of staff members – Resident Advisors receive free accommodation and a partial meal plan, but the meal plan only covers 100 meals and $140 plus dollars per semester. A traditional freshman meal plan understand unlimited daily access to dining rooms and $150 plus dollars. Chin said these efforts were successful because they were able to expand the meal plan to cover more meals and include more Flex Dollars. Chin has also worked to improve the program’s diversity, equity and inclusion training to make it more holistic and applicable to all HRL members.
DiPaula says that over the year they have made an effort to take care of themselves by setting boundaries and — unless a resident is in crisis — making sure to set time aside. .
“It was something that worked for me, just because I knew that if that person was in crisis, I would always be there to help – so I didn’t have to worry about not being there for them immediately. if she needed me to be,” DiPaula said. “But I always have that time to myself if I needed it.”